November 2004 Archives

Spam be gone: Upgraded

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Finally got the blog upgraded to MT 3.1, where there's now an approval cycle for comments. It also came with a feature to mass delete the comment spam, so that's all tidied up now.

I feel much better on this foggy last day of November.

Now to take yodelling lessons

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Bären Express

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You never really know what you can bring to others along the way. We had a dinner late on Saturday night so we missed part of the "Mr. Bear Germany" contest (for the uninitiated, think a version of Miss [Texas or Germany or Universe] pageant, except the contestants are guys with beards & a gut) at the Cologne "Stadthalle". Since we were running late, we took a taxi from the Greek restaurant to the event...

Tourist afternoon

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Chaz & I took a 'tourist' afternoon today & went to do a little bit of shopping, and then hit the legendary Hofbräuhaus for dinner.

It was complete with a brass band & Chaz drinking a liter of beer. :-)

Again, pics to follow, but I'm not there yet. Tomorrow we check out and head to Cologne for the long weekend. I've let everyone at work know I'm taking the two holiday days. It'll be nice to not to have to sweat that stuff.

Weekend & Week in Munich

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Chaz arrived without any incidents on Saturday morning BRIGHT and early, and we've been running around Munich since then.

There are some pictures to be posted of the misadventures, but the week has been consumed with catching up and with a computer that died. Its been a lot like work.

Franz has of course made quite an impression on Charles. Last night he invited us over for a 'quiet little Austrian dinner'. Yeah. Uh huh. Lets see:

  • Tattinger to start
  • Avacado, Salmon, Salmon roe and horseradish sauce with a potato pancake
  • Spinich stuffed crepes with mushrooms in cream sauce
  • Hungarian gulash with beef & onions
  • Gargantuan king prawns garnished with star fruit slices & quince, alongside a parsley salad
  • Schnapps to 'help the digestion'
  • Then an intermezzo of a lemon sorbet served in spumanti
  • Main course of stuffed veal and rice with a red wine
  • Then dessert of a stuffed apple dumpling, a plum dumpling, a piece of cream filled cake, and ice cream
The courses we DIDN'T get to:
  • Fruit course
  • Cheese course

14 hours later and Chaz is still belching, despite not having had any food all day. Needless to say, we'll be eating light the rest of the week.

More to come this afternoon.

In Main-hatten

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Fridays are generally pretty good, and this one was only in the general sense good. The Motive team took far too long to get through breakfast partly because we didn’t want to go out in the heavy snow that was falling in Hannover. That, and our coworker from Spain likes mornings even less than I do. The workday was fairly productive, although it drags on around 2pm when the building is empty and I’d rather be hitting the gym or the sauna instead of doing real work. I didn’t get away until about 4, but at that point I had 2 hours to kill before getting on the train to head toward picking up Chaz. I texted Thomas and spent some time at Café Konrad enjoying a beer & some olives & some pretty good conversation.

Charles arrives Saturday morning at around 7:10am, so I am in Frankfurt at an airport hotel so I can pick him up bright & early. The train from Hannover to Frankfurt was damned full, and there were a couple of chatty-kathy gurlfriends across the aisle that were kind of creeping me out. Before hitting the hotel I made a detour to one of the pubs in town, and killed a little bit of time.

Hopefully we’ll catch the 7:53 ICE train to Munich and be there by noon. I got out of having to go to Hannover next week, so we’ve got a couple of good days ahead in Munich before seeing our friends in Cologne. This is going to be a fun weekend!

Hannover update

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Its been a pretty busy couple of weeks, primarily with work, but also with headaches with the computer in general.

Last week I was in Munich for the entire week, and had a great time. As I alluded to before, Franz wound up just cooking ‘a little something to eat’ last Wednesday night. We originally had plans to go out to eat for Thursday, but I double-booked and he couldn’t get a reservation where he wanted, so he offered to cook. Little did I know what to expect. He started by opening a bottle of ’97 Tattinger for us to sip on while he finished the cooking. The salad course consisted of a plate of cantaloupe, lettuce, avocado, palm hearts, and two enormous king prawns, garnished with those yellow cherry fruits & a star fruit slice. The soup course was a spicy thai lemongrass soup with duck meat in it. As fish course, he lightly breaded & grilled some ray, and had some sweet potato basted in vanilla sauce. The main was a roasted duck served on saffron rice with raisins and cashews, with a side of cooked figs, plums, and dates. Dessert was an Austrian thick crepe with a cheese filling and served on a sauce of eggnog on one side and cherry sauce on the other side. 5 courses, wine, brandy, and all made by hand in his kitchen which isn’t much larger than my bathroom back home. It was quite a feast.

We went out as well a couple times during the week for dinner, and he fed me at the restaurant where he works last Sunday. The guy likes his food, and I have a feeling that if I hang around down there much, my efforts to lose a few pounds while over here may be in vain. As a matter of fact, he texted me yesterday saying “Are you sure you’re getting enough to eat up in Hannover?” Uh huh, he’s an encourager.

The unorganized one has been getting some tactical coaching, and is actually seeming to do a few things different, so maybe he’ll pay some attention to how things are going, and actually understand the impact of saying ‘ja’ all the time. Technically, I think the project is under control, there’s just lots of details that can and do get lost in the daily grind. I’ve spent a lot of time helping 2 other groups of people understand both the changes in the project and the way the EMEA team has changed the base product. Some of it is good, some of it is really confusing.

In general, this week in Hannover has been good, although its pissed down rain each day – not the flooding like Texas had, but just a non-stop heavy mist that gets you wet when walking around town. Monday night I got to the gym for cardio. Tuesday night I made swimming. Wednesday night I met a couple of the guys from Hannover at a ‘stammtisch’ or regular meeting at a cool little café near the theatre district, and Thursday night I got some laundry done and had a Chinese dinner to myself.

Charles takes off from Austin Friday afternoon, and arrives here Saturday morning at 7am or so. I’m going to take a train from Hannover to Frankfurt to pick him up at the airport. I was considering taking a car, but there’s a chance of snow, especially heading south to Munich.



Looks like things aren't better. I got put on a comment-spam feed. Great.

I had wanted to tell about my week in Munich which included a made from scratch 5-course meal, and utter disdain for the unorganized one, and a good afternoon at the sauna, but I'm in a crappy mood now that I have to fix the main blog.

Wait, its Friday already?

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Week was full of work, and a little fun in Munich.

Blog was down with some hosting issues, but I think things are better now.

Winter's HERE!

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Snow in Munich today!


Report on the weekend coming later. Got work to do otherwise.


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Breakfast this morning:


Our little "team" activity of going to sushi was ok. Very modern place with sushi boats on the bar. The fish wasn't too fresh, but it will make sushi back home taste that much better.

I'm going to hang out in Hangover this afternoon and head to Munich tomorrow morning. I haven't seen much of the city so might as well. Looks like next week will be in Munich the whole week, which will be a nice break from being in a bleak T-Com office.

Not that they don't take us seriously


The headlines didn't even bother to paraphrase Brittany; they just flat out hijacked her "Oops, they did it again". Obviously that's the big news over here, only slightly overshadowing the murder of Theo v. Gogh in Amsterdam this week by extremists. All in all, things aren't in a very friendly state, and its somewhat disconcerting.

Had dinner with a couple of fellow swimmers last night - they neglected to tell me it was vegetarian however. Was a good meal, in a house, with good company, and the first smoke-free evening I've had in a while. Tonight is a 'team dinner'. The unorganized one thinks that that will bring more to his side I suppose. Personally, I'm getting really annoyed at it in any case. Next week there's a huge convention in Hannover:

EuroTier! (Tier is animal in english) Everything will be there when it comes to Livestock & Poultry production. As a result, all the hotels are going to be full, and the Motive team is going to retreat to the Munich office for the week. It will be a nice change, though there is that 'ranch hand' mystique that might surround the whole event here.

More on the laundry lady..

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I brought in more clothes to have washed... and she says: "What?!? are you going to regularly bring me your clothes to wash?"

Oh, I'm sorry. Silly me for thinking a laundry place would want to do LAUNDRY. in exchange for MONEY even!

Anyway, normally she's just used to dry cleaning, and I guess its a bit of an imposition to run a load in the washer with just 3 pairs of socks. Of course, I mentioned that I don't mind if she washes the socks & the underwear & the gym clothes all together in hot.. "Oh no, the underwear have to be done at 60 degrees C, and the tshirts can't take that or they get thin."

They're not big on bleach & detergent here.. environmental reasons, and even though I told her I wouldn't mind going down to get NEW t-shirts in a few weeks if I needed to, she will ONLY do the laundry as she sees proper! Okay then, wash the 3 pairs of socks alone, and I'll see you on Friday with money in hand.

Swimming was great last night. We did 1850 meters, including some butterfly, and fat-boy me has moved up to lead the fast lane. Am I being too competitive? I would like to lose some weight, but I suspect having a beer after workout is defeating the purpose. Yeah, and the fried mushrooms I had for dinner as well last night. The other thing that came out of dinner was that I worked myself into a dinner tonight with a couple of the people from the team at someone's house. Will be nice to be in a house for an evening I think.

The pendulum swings the other way now.

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There goes my reason for working abroad:

"I know this will be a disappointing message for some of you but after many conversations with HQ I have decided NOT to organize an EMEA wide Christmas event like we have done in the past years. Our group is becoming too big and costs for an event like we have done in the past years are not justifiable anymore."

Meh. I'm down now.

Recharging in Amsterdam


Our friend Gordon in Austin says he likes being around Charles & I due to the energy he gets from the two of us, and after this weekend, I understand him on a level that I hadn't before.

This weekend I spent with Jan & Timon was terrific, not because of the mild weather, or the time spent out and about on the town, or for that matter anything really tangible in any way. What made this a great weekend was being included in their community of friends. I feel warm and energized, and while we did some pretty cool things around town, what's prominent on my mind is a couple of hours of quiet breakfasts and coffee while watching boats go by on the Amstel. There are certainly times when I don't fit quite into the rhythm of life over here both at work and on a personal level, but if this weekend was one of those times, they did a good job of concealing that fact.

The sun continued to shine on Saturday, and while Sunday was cloudy, it didn't rain. As a result some of the things we did were outdoors, Jan fired up the boat 'Ayor' and the three of us did a small cruise across the Ij and along the Prinzengracht. Sunday, along with Fritz & Henk, the 5 of us went walking around their neighborhood of the Amstel, into the horticultural gardens, and on to see a display of the improvements being done to the Centraal Station. Saturday as well I got on a bike and pedalled around to a couple corners of town I hadn't been to in 2 years. Its a centuries-old city, so of course not much has changed: some of the same half-sunk boats were in the same canals, the owner of my favorite turkish restaurant is still behind the bar waving if you nod your head his way, and the Splash gym still has hordes of muscle-Marys talking about one another on the canal in front of it. I spent an hour talking with my favorite art glass salesman as well. I think its pretty comforting all told.


Sunday afternoon & evening absolutely rocked. It was the "Amsterdam Stetson's Gay Western Saloon" at a venue close to the University of Amsterdam, and I really had a blast. There are some photos and a couple of cool movies in the gallery here. They do mostly line dancing, and even the 2 step that they do, they have a coordinated set of moves that couples would go through, but it was terrific fun doing a couple of barn dances with them and even watching some of the other dances. I bought a couple rounds of beers, others bought a couple rounds, and it was great fun to be included. Jan rounded up a gang of 10 afterwards and we went to eat Spanish food not far from the red light district: meal was terrific (paelella, flan, beer), the companionship was flirtatious and fun, and our table was complemented by a few other patrons on our singing ability. (Okay, a couple other tables cleared out, but they were probably finished anyway!) Jan & his crew have a propensity to make up new lyrics to traditional songs to both honor & tease each other at major birthdays, and some of their latest greatest moments were relived over the flan.

Linguistically, I felt good about the trip - I could hear the words well and understood most of the vocabulary in the day-to-day, and only a few times did I have to ask for someone to repeat something they asked me slowly. I was a bit timid for whatever reason, so didn't make many attempts to speak in dutch, though I could have probably done a few minor things like order a taxi. Next trip I'll do a little bit more as well.

It wasn't quite going home, but it felt really good to be there, and it felt really good to be welcome. I'm grateful to have the chance to be close to people that can help me recharge and reconnect with what's important.

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